Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars: Weird Worlds [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by Marv Wolfman, John Byrne, Murphy Anderson, Gray Morrow, Sal Amendola, Joe Orlando, Howard Chaykin, & c.
Well, despite being nonplussed by the recent Barsoomian offerings from Marvel Comics, I admit they do improve on the crude Tarzan and Weird Worlds DC material of the early 1970s collected in this trade paperback from Dark Horse. Writer Marv Wolfman shows an appropriate level of humility about his wooden writing when reflecting on it in his 2010 introduction.
The best art of the volume is in the single issue by Gray Morrow, which — if nothing else — relieves the reader from the goofy goggle eyes that Murphy Anderson bestowed upon his version of the Tharks, subsequently taken up by Sal Amendola. In fact, some of the better art in the whole book is in a trio of cover thumbnails (7), showing work by Joe Kubert, Michael Kaluta, and Howard Chaykin. (Wouldn’t you know it, Chaykin manages to have a Barsoomian babe in manacles and fishnet hose on the cover of Weird Worlds #7!)
I don’t know how well the four-color style hues in this book track with the original comics, but there is some obvious difficulty with Martian skin tones. The Red Martians are often as white as John Carter. (Exhibit A is the book’s cover, showing the palest Dejah Thoris ever.) Morrow dissents from the other artists on yet another issue of Thark anatomy: he only gives the females two teats (20), contrasted with the four afforded by Anderson and Amendola.
The book in hand covers the full run of DC Barsoomiana, which amounts to adaptations of A Princess of Mars and Gods of Mars with a very little other material mixed in. I’m happy to have it in my library for comparative and historical purposes, but its value pretty much ends there.